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Olympic hopeful Matthieu Pavon fulfills mom's good-luck charm at the Masters

Olympic hopeful Matthieu Pavon fulfills mom's good-luck charm at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — In 2009, Beatrice Pavon, a golf instructor from France, attended the Masters and buried a €1 coin at Augusta National Golf Club. She hoped it would be a good-luck charm for her son, Matthieu (then 16 years old), to one day play in the tournament.

On Monday, Beatrice returned to Augusta. This time, she followed Matthieu, who is preparing to play his first Masters after a remarkable rise in the last six months.

"It will be pretty impossible to find that coin again," Matthieu said. "But it doesn't matter. I think it's part of the story, and it's only better that coin maybe stays here forever."

Matthieu Pavon began last October ranked 228th in the world and was the sixth-highest-ranked Frenchman.

Now, he is 25th in the world, the top Frenchman by 66 spots, and just 10 spots off the highest ranking ever for his country. Victor Dubuisson reached No. 15 in 2015.

Though Pavon earned a spot in the Masters in January — when he became the first Frenchman to win on the PGA Tour since World War II — it didn't really hit him until he arrived that he would be playing in a tournament he grew up watching on TV.

"Everything goes quite quick since I came on the PGA Tour," he said.

He birdied the last four holes at the DP World Tour Championship in November to seize his first Tour card, moved from Andorra to Florida in January (before winning the Farmers Insurance Open), and has stayed in Airbnbs since with wife Melissa and 2-year-old son Aaron.

"I had a fast start, so I had a lot of media to deal with," he said. "My life hasn't really stopped since. It was hard to just take some time for me and really realize what I've achieved so far."

A year or so after his mom planted that coin, young Matthieu, then still undecided on his athletic future, visited family friend Thomas Levet, France's top male golfer in the mid-2000s.

"He didn't know if he had the level to turn pro," Levet said. "I told him, 'Look, Matthieu, there are some people on tour that I beat every day, and they keep their cards, and I don't beat you every day. So I think you have the level.'"

In 2013, Pavon turned pro while ranked outside the top 800 amateurs in the world.

He won on the Alps Tour, a third-level tour in Europe, once each in 2014 and 2015. He then ranked sixth on the Challenge Tour in '16 to graduate to the DP World Tour.

In his first nine tournaments in the 2017 season, he missed five cuts and finished no better than 22nd.

"I was one of the young guys on tour, wanted to do great but wasn't doing the best so far, and I was complaining a lot, and I wasn't happy about the situation and the moments I had on the course," he said.

He had an epiphany while at the 2017 Indian Open near New Delhi, where he saw children playing in the streets without shoes and with little clothing.

"I was like, I really have to grow up, stop being a teenager, stop complaining about everything, just embracing the moment, because I'm a very lucky person," he said. "It's a lot of hard work, but we are still lucky to be healthy and have a great situation."

So Pavon had "grow up" tattooed on his chest in an Indian language.

His results improved, but it still took seven years and 185 starts on the DP World Tour before his first title at the Spanish Open last October. That led to his earning a '24 PGA Tour card via the DPWT pathway.

Pavon then won the Farmers at Torrey Pines in January at age 31.

At the same age, his father, Michel, had authored a feat of his own as captain of French soccer club Bordeaux — scoring from distance on a goalkeeper’s blunder against Manchester United in a 2000 Champions League match.

"This is what he always said to me: 'If you don't try, you can't succeed,'" Matthieu Pavon said. "He took that shot, and he tried. Whereas maybe some of the others were uncomfortable with it, he ended up scoring, so why not try?"

More family highlights are likely ahead.

Pavon is very likely to play a home Olympics in Paris in August. That wasn't top of mind until he won the Farmers, though he had passed Victor Perez to be the French No. 1 earlier in January. A nation can only qualify two golfers per gender if ranked outside the top 15 in the world.

Golf was re-added to the Olympics, it was officially announced, in 2009, the same year that Pavon's mom planted that coin at the Masters. Asked about representing his country, Pavon rattled off French gold medalists he admires such as judoka Teddy Riner and pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.

"This is the thing I'm looking forward to the most at the Olympics, sharing time with those great athletes," he said.

Then in 2025, Pavon could become the first Frenchman to play at a Ryder Cup since 2014. And he hopes to extend the family tradition at Augusta for years beyond.

"Probably I'm going to get a coin myself," he said, "bury it somewhere for maybe wishing that my son one day will come as a player over here."